The New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services has joined community leaders in a call for Government updated budget spending that recognises the critical role NGO and iwi/Māori social services are playing in Aotearoa New Zealand’s pandemic recovery.
Next week the Government budget offers an opportunity to bring funding support for iwi, NGO and faith-based social services into line with Government social service funding, so that children and their whānau can get the help they need from anywhere across the social service sector – especially at this time when the country moves to recover from the COVID-19 crisis.
The New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services, Social Service Providers Aotearoa (SSPA) and Philanthropy New Zealand wrote to the Prime Minister and senior Cabinet Ministers last week, seeking recognition for their efficiency and adaptability in responding to urgent social services – straight out of the gate – as the COVID crisis emerged.
“For ten days before the Government’s pandemic emergency management response got up and running, it was community social services and iwi/Māori groups that provided emergency food packages to people in need,” said NZCCSS Executive Officer Trevor McGlinchey today.
“Government-contracted community social services are critical at any time, but even more so in a crisis when the number of people needing support leaps.”
Social Service Providers Aotearoa National Manager Brenda Pilott said the independent report they commissioned from Martin Jenkins in 2019 found the Government was underfunding NGO social service providers by an estimated $630m a year.
“Many of our critical social services were already in tenuous financial positions prior to COVID-19 due to this underfunding.” Brenda said.
“For many years we’ve seen staff burnout and organisations using scarce resources to fundraise to keep going, when they should be able to fully focus on helping people.”
“We support the Government’s focus on wellbeing – but they can’t achieve that without a strong community sector. Children, families and whānau rely on community supports being there for them as we emerge from the pandemic.”
NZCCSS acknowledges that the Government has responded to immediate pressures caused by the lockdown with targeted funding, but they see nothing in this funding package that addresses the long-term underfunding of NGO and iwi/Māori social services.
Front-line service community social service providers are experiencing very high demand for their services already, and need the Government to close the funding gap so they can meet demand and retain their workforce on viable rates.
NZCCSS is also backing a second call for Government to more closely consult with front line faith-based, iwi/Māori and NGO social service providers as they make decisions on how best to support people coming out of the lockdown period.
“Government decision-making will be more effective if they involve all the groups they expect to deliver the services, and through that process, prioritise the voices of those who use the services.” Trevor McGlinchey said.
NZCCSS believes that a budget commitment to funding non-Governmental social service providers will enable them to serve the community at full capacity, which in turn will increase the country’s chances of making a swift and less painful recovery from the pandemic lockdown.